Mutinous State Legislatures Trammel the Democratic Process Over Same-sex Marriage and School Funding
State legislators across the nation aren’t content to simply paralyze their own branch of government, they’re actively working to undermine their respective judicial and executive branches through increasingly brazen unconstitutional acts of defiance. We’ve seen this at the national level with two recent high-profile examples of lawmakers overstepping their authority — the Congressional invitation to Netanyahu, and the letter to the Ayatollah from 47 rogue lawmakers — both were egregious acts of trespass on the separation of powers.
Democracy Tree recently reported on retaliatory legislation directed at state courts over their rulings citing lawmakers for not living-up to their constitutional duty to properly fund public schools. A study from the Center for American Progress takes aim at Republicans for thwarting judicial authority. The watchdog organization Gavel Grab reports:
[T]he Center for American Progress finds that “Conservative politicians are lashing out at courts that order equal funding for education,” as the report’s title states, and they are seeking to remove judges, reduce their authority or give the legislative and executive branches “exclusive control” over appointing judges.
Same-sex Marriage Battle Sparks More Obstructive Lawmaking
In addition to the multitude of “Religious Freedom” bills specifically crafted to discriminate against the LGBT community, there are bills pending meant to cripple state courts over marriage rights.
Jamie Barnett and Liz Seaton, board members of the watchdog organization Justice at Stake, recently penned an article in Governing about the legislative “War on Our Courts” over same-sex marriage. The attorneys describe the national crisis:
The reality in many states is now this: Legislators are pushing bills to intimidate, punish or fire public employees, including judges, who recognize or grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This follows threats by legislators to impeach judges over single rulings they disagree with. In the wake of judges overturning state bans on marriage for same-sex couples, these impeachment calls have multiplied.
It’s not just Alabama…
Texas and South Carolina – Both states are considering proposals to force courts to throw-out any case challenging the ban on same-sex marriage.
Oklahoma – Lawmakers up-the-ante with a rule to remove judges from office if they consider a case on same-sex marriage. State lawmakers are so fixated on the issue, they’ve introduced legislation to place marriage license authority strictly in the hands of clergy — inspiring Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, to suggest a possible name change for the Sooner State.
Iowa (earns the blue ribbon though) – Two years ago their legislature attempted to cut the pay of their supreme court justices by 85 percent after the high court overturned their ban on same-sex unions. Republicans additionally tried to impeach the justices. They subsequently ousted two justices through a richly bankrolled smear campaign.
The U. S. Constitution is clear on the impeachment issue — strictly limiting its application to “high crimes and misdemeanors.” A ruling, one way or another, on any issue is the courts’ constitutionally protected prerogative, not a criminal act. Barnett and Seaton warn:
If one judge were impeached over a decision, who honestly thinks that would be the end? In a hyperpartisan political climate, impeachment hearings could become all too common. No credible system of justice could survive such a political wrecking ball.
The U.S. Supreme Court must put a stop to this legislative lunacy when they rule on same-sex marriage later this year. In the meantime, GOP lawmakers may wish to brush-up on their civics — they probably don’t fully understand that the high court enjoys legislative and executive judicial review authority. Although the Constitution does not specifically confer this power, it has been the law of the land since 1803. To challenge it now would provoke a constitutional crisis most certainly resulting in chaos — an outcome that it seems would please these right-wing anarchists.
Update: Constitution Daily opines on the Supremacy Clause in the Alabama Supreme Court standoff with federal courts.